Revolution #044, April 23, 2006, posted at revcom.us
In issue #42, Revolution ran a review of David Horowitz's book "The Professors—The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" (see "'The Professors . . .' David Horowitz and the New Brownshirts," by Alan Goodman at http://rwor.org/a/042/professors-horowitz-new-brownshirts.htm).
A number of the professors who are attacked in Horowitz's book responded to the review, and some gave permission to share their responses at this online forum. These professors' comments reflect their own views, and not necessarily those of their university, of Revolution newspaper, or any other organization or institution. And the professors whose comments are included here are not responsible for other content at the revcom.us Web site or in the print version of Revolution newspaper.
Partly in response to these comments, Alan Goodman wrote a follow-up piece in Revolution #44, "Brownshirts on Campus with Deep Connections to Bush—David Horowitz and the Halls of Power.".
From Peter N. Kirstein, Professor of History, St Xavier University, Chicago
I debated Mr. Horowitz on March 29, 2006 on the Iraq War and the right of professors to comment and incorporate the war as part of their classroom pedagogy. My comments on the American state-terrorist Iraq War were published by George Mason University's History News Network: http://hnn.us/articles/23421.html
Being named as one of the 101 Most Dangerous Professors came as little surprise. I was suspended for an antiwar email in 2002 due to public pressure to punish me for my pacifist beliefs even though American Association of University Professor guidelines were egregiously violated by an administration pandering to public right-wing opinion. So these are the times where the academy is under assault by several but not all right-wing groups, who wish to impose a nationalistic, prowar ideological monopoly on higher education through the marginalisation of progressive faculty. Academic freedom must be defended by those who are committed to academic excellence and the thunder of the right needs to be challenged on every front. Otherwise, America will have no voices left to challenge its imperialistic, racist and monstrous disregard for international peace and security.
Resistance is essential; radicalism is imperative; critical thinking is mandatory if we are going to reverse course and create a nation based upon democracy, human rights and respect for the needs of the international community.
Kirstein Blog http://english.sxu.edu/sites/kirstein/
Kirstein Website http://people.sxu.edu/~kirstein/
From Michael Schwartz, Professor of Sociology, State University of New York/Stony Brook
The purpose of this book is to generate controversy and excitement, so that Horowitz can vivify his flagging campaign to raise more millions of dollars in contributions from right wing foundations. He is either running out of money or he needs much more to sustain and perhaps amplify his campaign (which is now waning, at least temporarily). We must make sure not to help him in this endeavor by diverting our own efforts away from important activities; or to refocus our attention to debates with him. This will allow him to call more attention and resources to his campaign, while draining precious energy that is needed for important social activism. We have to fight him when he actually causes trouble, and ignore him the rest of the time. Otherwise, he will interfere with fighting the war and other major causes, while recruiting resources from his right wing backers. If he can't generate controversy, then his funding will die and he will become much less dangerous.
From Derrick Bell, New York University
Thanks for providing a summary of the widespread program that Horowitz has mounted that flies in the face of the most basic principles of academic freedom.
From Dean J. Saitta, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Denver
Thanks for forwarding this article. While I'm willing to give Horowitz the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't really intend to "legislate" what can be said in the classroom or institutionalize a new censorship (what many of his critics suggest), his crusade does invite others to go down this road. Certainly, his book is shoddily researched and he makes some terribly reckless claims about those profiled in it. He not only attacks, as you point out, critical thought and debate about today's pressing questions, but also many established truths about the "overdetermination" of knowledge, the fluidity of disciplinary boundaries, and the social position of the university in society. Mr. Horowitz himself seems a deeply contradictory critter. As I suggested in a post to dangerousprofessors.net:
"Mr. Horowitz says that he wants professors to be academic and scholarly, yet his book research is superficial and sloppy, and should inspire no confidence that his accounts of rampant student persecution are accurate. He wants professors to stick to their subjects, yet he fails to realize that disciplinary boundaries have become increasingly permeable to the point where everything happening in intellectual and social life is conceivably relevant to the classroom subject at hand. He stands for eliminating political bias from the classroom, yet he ignores a century of scholarship showing that biases of all kinds inevitably shape all forms of academic inquiry, and that they can actually work to education's advantage if teachers and students are aware of them. He thus misses the point that "depoliticizing" classrooms implicitly politicizes them. He claims to be a pro-democracy patriot, but he rejects Jeffersonian ideals of teaching for citizenship in favor of an elitist, "sage on the stage" model of tweedy professors filling up empty-headed students with disinterested knowledge. He wants to promote intellectual curiosity, yet he bailed on his own graduate program because, in his stunningly impoverished view of intellectual life, "everything had been mined. There was nothing to research that was interesting anymore" (Chronicle of Higher Education interview, May 6, 2005).
He supposedly is a student advocate, yet he clearly disrespects the ability of students to think for themselves, and he underestimates the resolve of our very best students to "battle test" their ideas in the classroom. He says he stands for civil discourse, yet his online magazine Frontpagemag.com is an unreadable hate sheet. Clearly, if we want to encourage intellectual curiosity about how the world works and model inquiry in pursuit of truth, this is not a man from whom we should take much advice.
Unfortunately, however, what Horowitz says about the academy resonates with large numbers of citizens. The problem is widespread public ignorance of what professors do and what the university is for. I'm afraid that many professors themselves worry too little about accountability to the public, and think too little about the relationship between the university and wider society. And public debates between Horowitz and Ward Churchill do almost nothing to educate the public on this important issue, and will hurt the cause of academic freedom more than help it.
By the way, I'd cut Horowitz some slack with his defense of Larry Summers. I also defended Summers' right to speculate about the causes of the differential participation of women in science, without endorsing any of his conclusions as established fact. As noted above, disciplinary boundaries are becoming increasingly permeable. We need to let "borderland" fields (like evolutionary psychology, which inquires into evolved differences between men and women) develop before we issue proclamations about "the way the world is" (e.g., that of the American Sociological Association). But I'm an anthropologist, and I've got problems with much of what sociologists say!
Thanks for your work, and all best.
From Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Boston University
I think Horowitz's book is best ignored. But thanks for the article.
From Sam Richards, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Penn State University
Great article. I think you succeed in illuminating the concerns that surface when people like David Horowitz attempt to "regulate" what happens between students and professors in the classroom. Frankly, what does happen in the classroom is so incredibly complex, that we must leave it up to the free market to address any wrongs.
Having said that, Horowitz does raise some provocative questions that those of us in the academy ought to be addressing. For example, how do we know that we're really balancing our perspectives when we teach? How often do we discuss it with peers who think differently than we do? I would like to see us professors discuss these questions more directly . . . and more often.
From David P. Barash, Professor of Psychology, University of Washington
I very much appreciate your work and the article in question. My response to Horowitz has largely been to make fun of him and his crusade, figuring that ridicule may be the most effective tool in such cases; on the other hand, I'm well aware of the dangers latent in his assaults on academic freedom and efforts to limit and - worse yet - direct, scholarly inquiry.
I know it's a cliché, but keep up the good work!
[In giving permission to use his comments online, Professor Barash added the following note.]
I agree that it's an interesting question whether that particular SOB is best responded to, or simply ignored, or—as I'm inclined—laughed at. In case you haven't seen it, here's a newspaper article about H's attacks on me: http://tinyurl.com/l7dx7
I'm attaching an e-mail I sent to a fellow at the American Federation of Teachers who is collecting responses to H. It consists of the chapter in The Professors that directly concerns me, along with my corrections/comments, plus some general observations at the end. [Professor Barish sent two excerpts from Horowitz's book, followed by Barash's responses. They can be read at http://collegefreedom.org/hbarash.htm.]
From Matthew Evangelista, Professor of Government, Cornell University
Thanks, this is very informative. I especially appreciated the details about attacks on academics at various institutions. You might want to verify Horowitz's claim about the number of states that have adopted his proposed legislation, rather than just citing his website.
[In a follow-up note, Professor Evangelista added the following comment:]
I would also look forward to reading a discussion of the pros and cons of responding to Horowitz. I think his book is probably less important than his campaign to influence state legislation, but presumably the two are related.
From Manning Marable, Director, Center for Contemporary Black History, Columbia University
Thanks for your article. It's an excellent analysis of Horowitz's reactionary political agenda.
[Here is the beginning of an article that Marable wrote in response to Horowitz's attack that he gave Revolution permission to reprint]:
The Most Dangerous Black Professor in America
Dr. Manning Marable
"Along the Color Line"
Back in 1919, in the chaotic aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution, President Woodrow Wilson's administration sought to suppress radical and progressive intellectuals here at home. Government agents harassed W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP's journal, The Crisis. Copies of African-American socialist A. Philip Randolph's militant journal, The Messenger, were seized and destroyed. When President Wilson was given a copy of The Messenger, he declared that Randolph must surely be "the most dangerous Negro in America."
Randolph later went on to found the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, the first successful African-American labor union. In the 1930's. Randolph conceived of the National Negro Congress, a black united front that challenged the racism of Jim Crow segregation and the inadequate programs of the Roosevelt administration in dealing with black unemployment. In 1941 Randolph pressured Roosevelt with the call for a "Negro March on Washington, D.C.," resulting in the desegregation of defense industry jobs generated by federal contracts. Randolph was indeed "dangerous" to the enemies of black freedom.
Randolph immediately came to mind when I learned recently that I was listed among "The 101 Most Dangerous Professors" in America's colleges and universities. The indicted of these 101 "academic subversives" appears in a new book by right wing gadfly David Horowitz. Horowitz crashed the headlines several years ago when he circulated the provocative advertisement denouncing black American reparations for slavery and Jim Crow segregation as "racist." His latest political maneuver is the demand for an "Academic Bill of Rights," calling for state legislatures to restrict academic freedom on campuses...
Read more at www.manningmarable.net
Dana Cloud, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, University of Texas/Austin
You can see my own response (and those of others), which were first published in Socialist Worker (http://www.socialistworker.org), at http://www.socialistworker.org/2006-1/577/577_09_Professors.shtml